The Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 not to reappoint county engineer Bruce Cochran to another four-year term during a special meeting May 30. 

The special meeting was held after Cochran’s reappointment was tabled during the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on May 21.

At that meeting, an initial motion by commissioner Genny Reynolds failed when it was not seconded by any other board members.

During the May 30 meeting, personnel director/assistant administrator Holly Wilson said Cochran’s term ends on Dec. 31, 2019.

“Per [MN Statute 163.07] the board is required to reappoint, if recommended, in the month of May. So that leaves us with today,” Wilson said.

County administrator Pat Oman told the board there were no other options concerning the special meeting’s agenda item.

“We reviewed this with our labor attorney and really the only scenario for you is to consider the motion at hand and that is to approve for a four-year term. There’s language in here about shorter term things, but that’s not applicable in this case,” Oman said.

Reynolds again motioned to reappoint Cochran, but the motion failed – for the second time – when it was not seconded by any other board members.

The board then voted on a motion by commissioner David Oslin – seconded by commissioner Timothy Wilhelm – to not reappoint Cochran to the county engineer position. 

Despite chairperson Roger Tellinghuisen asking the board if there was any discussion regarding the vote, no board members spoke up.

Commissioners Phil Peterson, Wilhelm and Oslin voted “yay” to not reappoint Cochran with Tellinghuisen’s silence during the vote counting as a “yay” vote, according to board policy. 

Reynolds was the lone “nay” vote.

Cochran said he had talked to four commissioners since the board’s May 30 meeting.

“I felt I had sufficient support for re-appointment. There has been no performance review or productivity issue brought to my attention to suggest I would not be re-appointed,” Cochran wrote in a follow-up email.

Oman said Wilson would answering questions posed to him by the Union-Times and Mille Lacs Messenger newspapers. Wilson did not respond to a media inquiry before this article was published. 

Tellinghuisen, Wilhelm, Oslin, and Reynolds did not respond to a media request before deadline.

The May 30 special meeting also approved a proposal by B&P Weed Control to spray herbicide to control the noxious weeds Common Tansy and Spotted Knapwood along CSAH 11 and south for $223.92 per acre.

The county solicited six vendors, three of which replied with price proposals.

B&P Weed Control beat two other proposal for the contract, Bug Commander Pest Solutions and Central Applicators.

Bug Commander Pest Solutions bid of $89 per acre did not include material costs and county engineer Bruce Cochran recommended the bid not be considered. 

Central Applicators, which the county used last year to spray the noxious weeds, had a bid of $290 per acre.

Central Applicators was the only vendor to respond to solicitations to vendors to spray noxious weeds last year.

Mark Wasson is an APG of East Central Minnesota freelance contributing reporter who covers municipal and county government.

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